Four days a week, northeast area Denver high school students start their day with a morning meeting.

“We intentionally do that with our students in order to start them out on a good foot,” Michelle Ford, 9th grade math teacher at the Denver School of Science and Technology: Green Valley Ranch, said.

The meetings are led by teachers like Ford who are passionate about building a community where each student has a voice.

“Do students feel part of our community, do they see themselves in the lessons that we teach?” Ford asked.

For DSST junior Elias Williams, that caring spirit translates into academic success.

“I feel like what makes this school so special is [the] kind of thirst for success everyone here has,” Williams said. “We all pick each other up but I feel like the teachers we have here too really, really care about us and our futures.”

That success was recently highlighted when the DSST school won The Succeeds Prize for Transformational Impact in high school education.

The first-of-its-kind award was created in collaboration with Colorado Succeeds, 9NEWS, mindSpark Learning and the last three Governors.

Together they presented The Succeeds Prize to Colorado public schools and educators that showed innovation in education.

A total of $137,000 was awarded with the hope the winners will share their best practices with other schools in Colorado.

“A little bit of motivation and a little bit of that belief that you can do anything that you want, you just have to make up your mind to do it,” Ford said.

The recognition of growth and achievement starts with the students voices being heard.

“The amount of work I’m given, the care I’m given from the teachers,” Williams said, “I feel like, it’s definitely preparing me for an easy college career."

For more information about The Succeeds Prize, go to